by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The sixth and last Grand Prix of this season before the Vancouver Final is called "Internationaux de France de Patinage.“ It takes place in southeastern France, in the university city of Grenoble where the Olympic Winter Games were held in 1968. The U.S. team won two medals in figure skating then: Peggy Fleming became Olympic Champion and Tim Wood took silver behind Austrian Wolfgang Schwarz. The best U.S. pair were Cynthia and Ronald Kauffman on sixth position. The legendary Ludmilla Belousova & Oleg Protopopov won the pairs gold medal. Ice dance was not yet an Olympic sport.
The Grand Prix of 2018, like the one in 2017, does not take place in the old Olympic rink, but in a newer and smaller ice rink called "Pole Sud“ (South Pole) about two miles south of downtown. In each of the four categories there are several skaters who can hope to reach the Grand Prix Final in case of a top placement.
Big favorite in the men‘s event is the 2018 World Champion Nathan Chen after winning Skate America in October. Also hoping for a medal are Boyang Jin from China, Dmitri Aliev and Alexander Samarin from Russia, the second U.S. skater Jason Brown, Deniss Vasilievs from Latvia and Keji Tanaka from Japan.
In the ladies event there might be a hard fight for gold between the 2016 and 2017 world champion Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia and the new Japanese star Rika Kihira. U.S. skater Bradie Tennell is a candidate for the bronze medal as well as Mai Mihara from Japan, Stanislava Konstantinova and Maria Sotskova from Russia.
Vanessa James & James Ciprès from France are highly favored in the pairs competition. The two other medals might be won be the North Koreans Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim, the Russians Alexandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii or the Americans Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea.
In ice dancing the reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France announced his back pain is gone which made them withdraw from the NHK Trophy. If they compete, they are big gold favorites. The two other medal might be won by Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia and by Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Canada. Outsiders for a medal are the U.S. team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, the Spanish dancers Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz as well as the second French team of Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac.
2018 Skate France International Gold Medalists